NBCUniversal Entertainment Places Media Planning and Buying Business in Review

Incumbent agency Essence to defend

NBC logo as signage on building
Essence won the account in 2017. Getty Images
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The Entertainment division of NBCUniversal recently issued an RFP for its media business, according to several parties familiar with the matter.

The same individuals said Essence, the GroupM agency currently serving as incumbent on the account, will defend against several other unnamed holding group competitors.

WPP’s Maxus had been NBC’s media agency of record since winning a 2011 review that followed Comcast’s acquisition of the cable giant and a subsequent 2014 pitch for the digital portion of the business. Three years later, WPP merged Maxus and MEC to create Wavemaker, with Essence spinning off into its own agency unit and inheriting all the NBC business.

At the same time, Essence added Target to its client roster, effectively doubling its billings before adding a series of new managing partners on the NBCUniversal team in Los Angeles. All report to president and client director Pam Sullivan.

It is unclear exactly why NBC chose to review its entertainment business at this time. Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts reported higher-than-expected profits for the fourth quarter of 2018, with the company looking to gain greater leverage by launching a free streaming service in 2020.

Comcast has also made efforts on several fronts to maximize relationships with advertisers, from unifying its approaches to linear and digital TV sales via in-house platform FreeWheel to strengthening an analytics partnership with Data Plus Math.

Kantar Media estimates the 2017 U.S. paid media spend for NBC Media—or NBCUniversal minus that studio’s motion picture division—at $233 million. The same entity spent $184 million during the first nine months of 2018.

Essence declined to comment for this story. A representative for NBC’s ad sales division has not yet responded to an email seeking comment.

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.